I love being marketed to.
I really do.
I love marketing in general, of course, so I’m likely an exception rather than the rule.
But I shouldn’t be.
If we are doing our job as marketers well everyone should enjoy being marketed to.
I find the marketing process an interesting and creative way to do all the things I love to do: draw, design, write, and code. All in the context of being able to help people find greater satisfaction in their day to day life.
I find it a positive and compelling way to spend my time.
But not everyone agrees with me.
A lot of people hate marketing.
They hate being marketed to.
I get this a lot.
The picture that I sometimes get in my head is that of a group of marketing witches (that’s us) gathered around a bubbling cauldron in a dark cave and cackling as we brew up some potion of marketing evil.
It’s not a universal sentiment. Far from it.
But it is still very real.
And as marketers this is a mindset that we both caused and need to fix.
And we can fix it.
But in order to do so we need to understand what has gone wrong with the marketing message. We need to own up to our responsibility in that error and repair the damage.
The Wrong Message
Every industry has its technical jargon. Partly due to the need to accurately describe the specific nuances of each industry but this jargon also creates a sort of exclusive club atmosphere around an industry. The message essentially being that if you don’t know what we’re talking about then you don’t belong here.
Well talk down to you, but we won’t talk with you.
This approach is fine for some industries and professions. Some industries and professions are so technical and insular that such isolation has no real negative consequences. If you never have to talk with people then you don’t have to consider how you relate to people.
But that approach is not so good for marketing.
Marketing is fundamentally a human-centered and extroverted profession. Everything is all about people and relationships. It’s about nearly constant talk and social interchange. Especially in this age of LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook where constant and ongoing interaction is the operating norm.
As marketers our job is to interact with people on an almost constant basis.
And to do it in a positive and involving way.
Yet I’ve been to plenty of marketing blogs where the content is so filled with jargon about the way consumers are viewed that I completely understand why some people feel marketing dehumanizes them.
For too long now as marketers we've been sending consumers the wrong messages about marketing.
And we've paid a price.
We’ve created resentment and set ourselves up as adversaries.
People view online ads with suspicion and think it’s creepy the way the ads follow them around the internet. They feel like there is some hidden agenda at work. Something cloaked and dark.
We’ve become the stalkers of the internet.
As marketers it’s our fault, really.
We've been sending the wrong message for a long time.
And to some degree that wrong message is at least partially true. Every industry has its bad apples: those who operate on the very edge of ethical behavior. Or right over the edge as the case sometimes may be. And people see it.
And as marketers it’s our job to fix his rift and to repair the damage. Something we should be able to do this. We are marketers, after all.
As marketers we need to be sending a different message. A message that marketing is good for all of us. That marketing makes us smarter.
What marketing should never be
Marketing is not about selling or generating leads or atracting websites so we can fill up our analytics reports.
Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Even if that's what its become.
Marketing isn’t about automating email messages to segmented lists and making sure anyone who completes action x gets email sequence y.
Or at least in shouldn't be.
Even if that’s what it’s become.
Marketing is empowerment
Marketing is empowerment.
And it’s not about empowering us as marketers or the companies or clients that we work for.
Marketing is about about empowering consumers to learn and to grow and to make more informed decisions about their needs and desires, and then provide the best way to fulfill those needs and desires.
As marketers we bring the message.
We send the knowledge to the inbox.
We put the information where it needs to be.
Marketing is not just about products offers and discounts. It’s also about passing on all sorts of information that is important for the consumer to know. Politics and justice and social causes.
We are at the forefront of this dissemination of information. It’s an important job and a responsibility that requires ethics and integrity and respect.
Respect above all else.
Respect for the medium.
Respect for the message.
Respect for the consumer of that message. The consumer is not a metric. The consumer is not a data point on a graph. The consumer is not a conversion on the chart you send to your boss every Friday at noon.
Respect the people
Ultimately though the most important message is respect.
Respect for a consumer’s desire to learn and grow but also to not have things pushed into their faves when they don’t want it.
Be sensitive and aware.
Marketing is not about cracking rocks with a giant hammer. Marketing is subtle and relevant.
Consumers want to be educated. They want to learn about things so that they can make informed decisions about the products and issues and policies that affect their lives.
They don't want to be lied to or manipulated or treated as an entry on a spreadsheet.
Yes some of those things may be nessessary so that the goal of education can be fulfilled. But consumers need to be treated with the respect they deserve.
They are not an end prouct to be manipulated.
They are who we help and serve.
There is no be all or end all to this particular conversation. Ultimately as marketers we need to understand we are marketing ourselves and our profession as much as a product or a brand.
The more positive that message is the better consumers will feel about the entire marketing process.
We will become better at our jobs in the process.